Smash Court Pro Tournament 2 Review

Ben Silverman
Smash Court Pro Tournament 2 Info

genre

  • Sports

players

  • 1 - 2

Publisher

  • Namco

Developer

  • Namco

Release Date

  • 01/01/1970
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PS2

rating

A passing shot.

You’d be hard pressed to come up with a game as elegantly designed as tennis. The rules are unbelievably simple: hit the ball over the net, keep it in bounds, and don’t let it bounce more than once. Aside from that, there isn’t really much to learn, unless you count the ridiculous scoring system.

But when it comes to video games, simplicity isn’t always the best way to go. Sports games oozing with intricate depth, such as football or baseball, tend to have a longer shelf life than tennis. Lucky for net fans, Namco is undaunted by the fact that there hasn’t been a new tennis game for the PS2 in years and comes out swinging with Smash

Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2
, the sequel to its mediocre first effort. And just like a Williams sister, the game has gotten better with age, though is still far from the glory it hopes to one day achieve.

Before Smash

Court
hoists the tennis video game trophy, it will have to get past

the reigning champ, Sega’s Virtual

Tennis
series. The two games have much in common, mainly because Smash

Court
borrowed liberally from Sega

Sports Tennis
to

begin with.

Things have changed a bit with the sequel, particularly in its emphasis on hit

timing. Rather than holding down a button to charge up a shot, the onus is

on the player to press the button right when the ball is hitting the racket

face for maximum power and accuracy. It’s a fairly small window, which gives

the game a steeper learning curve than most tennis games and gives Smash

Court
a notably different feel than the game on which it is clearly

based.

Otherwise, the control is pretty standard. You can hit slices, lobs, topspins

and flat shots at will, though the timing can have dire consequences on the

result. This is especially true with the flats shots, which have a tendency

to sail out of bounds unless you time it right. You’ll wind up using the topspin

and slice shots for a while until you start to get the timing down. While at

first it’s a little frustrating, the gameplay system gets better as you get

better, leading to a satisfying challenge.

The game features plenty of modes. A decent Tutorial helps teach you the

system and a somewhat useless Spectator mode will appeal to your voyeuristic

tendencies. Those with less patience can hop right onto the court in Arcade

or Exhibition mode, both of which allow you to play as or against any of the

game’s

licensed pro players on a multitude of real-world courts. Most contemporary

big name male and female tennis players are here, from Roddick, Henman, Safin

and Hewitt to Davenport, Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne and, of course, Anna “Maybe

One Day I’ll Actually

Learn How To Play Tennis” Kournikova. Sigh.

The depth of Smash

Court
can be found in the Pro Tournament mode, in which you build

you own player and take him or her through a full career. The creator is very

basic, hardly touching the likes of Top

Spin
for the Xbox, but things get better

in terms of statistics. As you play through tournaments and training exercises,

you’ll gain experience to divvy out to elements like Power and Stamina as well as cash to spend on a pretty thin collection of gear, some of which can enhance your performance. It takes a good amount of playing to really get going, but over time you’ll notice that you’re moving faster, hitting harder and just playing better as you climb in the rankings.

The most interesting thing about Pro Tournament mode is its default Mission system. Rather than have you slog through 5 sets of 6 games apiece just to get out of the first round in some Podunk tournament, Smash

Court
simulates the match up to a “Turning Point” in each set, then plops you into the action with a specific mission to complete. These range from the simple (acing one serve) to the obtuse (prevent your opponent from hitting more than 40% backhands), and if you complete them will net additional experience and often win the set outright.

It’s a good idea, but can turn frustrating in a jiffy. Some missions aren’t optional – if you don’t fulfill the requirements you’ll annoyingly lose the game, which can ruin a perfectly good run through a tournament. For instance, one mission might start you up 30/Love and ask to close out your opponent, meaning you have to win two straight points or you lose. Since you don’t determine which missions pop up, you can easily find yourself up against tough odds by no fault of your own.

Luckily, you can choose to disable the entire Mission system altogether before entering a tournament, in which case you simply play one set against each opponent without any additional requirements. You’ll miss out on the additional XP, but will also miss out on the irritating lack of control over the matches.

Whether

playing in a low level tournament or at the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, Smash

Court
looks pretty good thanks in no small part to a rock solid framerate

and nice, clean visuals. The various court surfaces are realistic ” footprints

and ball marks give some punch to the clay courts in particular. The player animations

are fluid and they are far less prone to diving at balls like in Sega

Sports Tennis
.

Player models, however, are often generic and sometimes don’t even vaguely match

the name or country of origin. I’m pretty sure Wai Tsang representing China shouldn’t

have red hair and white skin.

Sadly, the game misses out on some basic features, like any sort of user-controlled replay system to check out great shots from various angles. Speaking of which, you get a measly two camera angles from the start, and you’ll get more only after winning Grand Slam events, if you can believe that. And considering the success of Top

Spin
‘s Xbox Live play and the evolution of PS2 online play since Sega

Sports Tennis
came out two years ago, it’s a shame that Smash

Court
doesn’t support any online features whatsoever.

But these aren’t deal breakers, and considering the paltry number of offerings out there right now, it’s about as good as tennis gets on the PS2. Net fans should feel confident in Smash

Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2
‘s ability to deliver a solid match.

 

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

3.5
Rating
Good mechanics
Solid graphics
Decent Pro Tournament mode
With annoying missions
Weak customization
No online play